July 15

Nuts About Nuts

7  comments

It seems like we’ve been in the car on the road a lot lately. The myriad rules and regs imposed on flying by the TSA and FAA have made it, for us at least, easier to drive to a destination that’s within 5 or so hours than it is to fly to it. By the time you get to the airport an hour or more early, so that the TSA can maul your bags properly and the baggage handlers can mistakenly put them on a flight going to Dulles instead of Dallas, a one hour flight becomes a 2 1/2 hour excursion at the minimum…

and that’s if the plane departs on schedule. Then, even if you and your bags do arrive on time, you still have to rent the car at the other end. Might as well just drive, then at least you’re on your own schedule and won’t lose your luggage, suffer through the indignity of being wanded from tip to toe, or have your favorite souvenir corkscrew confiscated as a potential weapon of mass destruction. Or as Mike found out on a recent flight we made, have 4 sleeves of brand new high dollar golf balls plucked from your bag by person or persons unknown.

Besides, we enjoy each other’s company and actually get a lot of brain-storming, thought organizing, book/chapter outlining, and even sorting of the contents of the Great Amorphous Pile (the euphamism for Mike’s desk) done on road trips. And, it’s admittedly hard to brainstorm outloud on the plane; it disturbs the other passengers.

Our recent trip back to Arkansas for my high school class reunion is a perfect case in point: we flew from Santa Barbara to Phoenix to Dallas and then ended up renting a car in Dallas to drive the 5 hours to Little Rock for a few days of catching up with family and old friends. Then we drove on to Hot Springs for the reunion and then back down to visit the grandangels in Dallas, from whence we flew back to Santa Barbara.

When we head out for a road trip, we stock up with quality snacks–maybe some slices of good salami, cubes of organic cheese, whatever fresh produce we might have left in the kitchen, slices of cucumber, some cherry tomatoes, berries, or cherries, the odd peach or apple, perhaps. And usually we throw in a big bag of natural jerky and some nuts, just in case. You’ve seen what lines the shelves of the quickie marts at gas stations–all carbs, all the time, wrapped in cellophane, with a heapin’ helpin’ of trans fats and God knows what else tossed in for good measure. We stop in those establishments to buy bottled water, a cup of Joe, and gas, squeegie the windshields, use the facilities, and not much beyond that.

Back in June, when we drove to Prescott, Arizona to look over the contents of our warehouse before it migrated north with our assistant, we had plenty of snacks going, but had to stock up for the trip back. We ducked into a Costco down there to get some fresh fruit and nuts and happened upon a great road snack: Mrs. May’s Naturals

These organic nut cluster treats come in a wide variety of nutty flavors–almond, cashew, peanut, and pumpkin seed among them–and are made with just a hint of sweetness. Be forewarned, the sweetness is real (from organic cane sugar, I think) but there’s just the merest hint of it. The clusters are cut into small approximately one-inch cube-shaped pieces, each of which has about 1 gram of usable carb. And they’re absolutely delicious!

We’d seen and sampled these nut crunches at the Natural Foods Expo West a year or two ago, and I figured sooner or later they’d turn up at our local Lazy Acres or Wild Oats or Whole Foods. I was pleasantly surprised to see them turn up at Costco, available both in the large resealable multi-serving bag and as a tray of maybe a dozen individual small bags in multiple flavors.

One caveat, though: these snacks are so good that–trust me here–unless you’re made of sterner stuff than I am, you’ll want to get the little bags for easier portion control. At the very least, portion individual servings of 7 or 8 pieces out of the big bag into zipper snack bags for your own protection. It would be very easy, indeed, when trapped in the car headed down the lonesome highway, to consume a generous portion of the large bag before you could blink. And even at just 1 gram a square, if you gobble down 30 or 40 of those babies at a sitting, the carbs (not to mention the calories) will add up fast. And we all know that when the carbs and calories go up, a whole lot of other things go up, too!

One small bag, tucked into your purse, would work as a great popcorn avoidance maneuver at the movies. They’d also make a nutritious lunch or afterschool snack for kids, even if they’re not nuts about nuts. And how else, I ask, would you be able to get them to eat pumpkin seeds?


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  1. The one problem I’ve always had with Costco is that if a product isn’t mainstream (ie, name brand) or not popular enough, Costco gets rid of it before you know it. I’ll check that out the next time I go there (not sure if all Costcos carry the same things), but one thing I’ve found is when it comes to healthy foods/snacks, never keep your hopes up at Costco.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Generally sad, but true; still these have been there for a while, according to our assistant, who now tells us she buys them regularly there for her dad. In some cases, I think they buy big lots of overruns or remainder stock of some product and sell it until it’s gone, then it is no more. Or there wasn’t a big enough market for it, so they elected not to stock it permanently. You can’t really blame them for that; afterall, they’re in the business to move product.

    As to the Mrs. Mays, however, I’ve noticed that several of the Costco’s we’ve checked have had the multiflavor packages of individual portions but vary on which of the big bags they carry. The Costco in Santa Fe had the Cashew Crunch, as does the one in the Santa Barbara area. The Costoco in Prescott, Arizona, however, had the only Almond Crunch (also good) when we stopped in. Clearly, there is some degree of local autonomy at Costco, as there most assuredly is at Whole Foods.

  2. Also on a similar note, the last time I was at Costco (my friend was shoping, I was busy having a sample meal, as many do, haha) I had a sample of these soy crisp snacks. They were delicious, but with one caveat: they were delicious because they had chocolate or caramel or other kinds of sugary things drizzled on them. So sad but true, and even more so there are probably people that will eat these and think they are healthier for them because they are soy. Bad part is, they’ll be doing so as they scarf down three handfulls of them!

    This sort of leads me to a question. I’ve been doing low carb for a while and have commented here before. I try to stay good as much as possible. My problem, however, is that I’m trying to work out with friends as much as possible, and trying to tone up my muscles. I have low carb protein shake mix (coincidentally from Costco) and they say it’s important to have a shake before working out and after working out so that the calories you burned while exercising are those calories from the shakes, because otherwise your body will go into survival mode. Would you agree with this? I’ve got a kind of gut at the moment and am trying to get the best of both worlds – gain muscle and lose fat, and trying to do it the most effective way.

    Also, more along the lines of your post, I’m a horrible snack person. For someone like me who is obviously looking at carbs (always do) and calories to a certain extent, what would you say is the best food to satisfy cravings while not yet in maintenance? I’ve been trying tofu as I love it, but I just love something I can pop in my mouth. Perhaps that’s just something I will need to really get a handle on stopping?

    Thanks for your help and for the blog…it really helps to see you two continuing to help all of us.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Whew. Lots of questions to answer. Let’s see. Regarding having shakes before and after working out: we actually come down on the side of working out on an empty stomach–if fat loss is what you’re after you WANT to have the calories you burn up coming from mobilizing fat stores, not from what you just ate, number one, and number two, if you want to repair the microtears of working out with weights, for instance, you don’t want more than a whisper of carbs that would supress your growth hornone release. That said, there is a “magic window” of time immediately post workout–ie, before the soft sound of the click of the weights coming back to rest in the last rep you did has time to die out–where a measured amount of carb as glucose along with some protein can give you a mini-spike of insulin to drive the protein and nutrients into the muscle cells and further growth of the muscle, if gaining bulk is your goal.

    I probably wouldn’t be a big tofu eater were I a male, since the estrogen-like plant sterols wouldn’t necessarily be conducive to muscle gain. I’d opt for meat–natural, anitobiotic/hormone-free, nitrate/msg-free salami or jerky, for instance or for nuts or whey-based shakes. You might check out our Low Carb CookwoRx cookbook and whip yourself up a batch of power muffins that you could snack on or get the Low Carb Comfort Foods Cookbook and make up a batch of low carb cookies to keep around. As we often say, the surest way to know what you’re eating is to make it yourself.

  3. These sound like wonderful snacks to have on hand for train trips, too; thanks for the heads-up. According to the website, they have a Coconut Almond version, so I’m in! It looks like the slight sweetness comes from barley malt and evaporated cane juice.

    Since Costco hasn’t yet landed in central NY state, I did check out other vendors–according to the website the products are also carried by some Targets, as well as Whole Foods and Super Walmart. I suppose this means I’ll have to give my new neighbor and brand new super WalMart another chance on my retail circuit list. I’ve given it two, so far, but confined my exploring to the home/garden sections, since I food-shop in other venues. But if SWM might have Mrs. Mays, that would give the store several points up on my list. 😉 If not, I can always stock up at Whole Foods during my next routine trip to NYC. 😉

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Or, order online!

  4. Thanks for the great answers! I will DEFINITELY look at your cookbook for a few snacks. After all, I already OWN it and was the first person to leave a comment about it on Amazon. It’s sitting right next to PPLP on my “reference” shelf (it’s where I keep all my “bibles” if you will, like my dictionary, encyclopedias, main finacial books, and main nutrition books, your books of course, so I can easily access information).

    Great info on the tofu, I’ll stick to my protein shakes, since they’re low carb and are whey protein. I definitely had those feelings on the working out. While I understand my friend’s point of gaining muscle through working out the calories from the shakes, I figured it wasn’t good enough. While I keep a good diet otherwise, I think his idea was better if you’re in maintenance and really gaining muslce is the only goal left (whereas I obviously still want to create a calorie deficit to lose the weight).

    Thanks again for the info, I will definitely feel it out and experiment. I really appreciate that you do this blog and help answer questions. It’s not often you see people actually write books and then take time out of their personal schedules to continue to help and educate their readers online so personally!

    COMMENT from MD EADES: We aim to please ;D

  5. I went to Costco today and they had the Mrs. May’s Naturals. I saw the bags of almonds and also the individual bag packs. I almost purchased them but I decided not to because as I am still trying to lose weight, I figure I should be mindful of the calories nuts contain, too! I took your suggestion for beef jerky and purchased some (as I love it!). I ate a little more than I should have, but it was a good snack. My only concern over jerky is the sodium content…I could literally eat over 2000mg if I eat 4oz of the stuff! I may look into making my own if I can find a way to do so with less salt. The biggest discovery for me was strawberries. I love it when they get the big 4 pound flats of strawberries for $4.99! I purchased one (as I have before) and used that to crave my snack cravings this evening. I realized that aside from not packing protein, they’re quite a good way to fill oneself up without sacrificing too many carbs (or calories, for that matter). Now my only problem left is forcing myself not to snack more. I don’t think it’s that I’m hungry, it’s just that I am so used to snacking, it becomes part of a psychological need I think. That, I feel, is the biggest thing to overcome, as mindful eating always is!

    COMMENT from MD EADES: One perspective that might help curb snacking is to realize that a very important part of human physiology is what’s called the post-absorptive interval. That’s the period of time, after eating, when all the digestive metabolic machinery busys itself processing what we’ve eaten. It takes about 6 hours or so to complete the process and for the body to become fully ‘post-absorptive’. Bringing everything back to baseline values is actually quite an important part of the nutrition-metabolic cycle and a necessity/benefit to those of use needing to restore metabolic hormonal balance, lose fat, etc. About the only time most of us get there is overnight, but to at least touch that baseline after meals may also be important. When we snack–even if it’s a ‘good’ snack–we’ve brought in more raw materials that must be processed before we can become truly post absorptive. Hence, a scientific rationale for not snacking between meals.

  6. Hello, Dr Eades;

    As someone inclined for many reasons toward a more high-protein/fat, lower carb diet and with a high metabolism (even at age 46), I eat a lot of nuts, as I hear how good they are for you (even if expensive) and I’m also a personal trainer, so I need to even increase my muscle mass. Translation, I’m forever trying to keep calories up and frequently snack. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and pecans are often my choice between meals.

    However, recently, I’ve been reading some conflicting info about the omega 3 vs omega 6 ratios pertaining to various nuts. For instance, one site I checked listed walnuts as a good source of 3’s, but it also showed a huge level of 6’s for it. I’m trying to lessen inflammation from what I eat, and I’m not sure nuts are doing this well or not, despite all the positives I’ve read in various places. If you could clarify for me regarding this concern, I’d sure appreciate it! Bert

    COMMENT from MD EADES: On average, nuts are actually mostly monounsaturated (like olive oil) but their ratios of polyunsaturated to monounsaturated to saturated vary nut to nut. The nuts with the highest amount of monos and fewest polys are macadamia nuts, which contain almost 83% mono, 15% sat, and only 2.4% poly. Hazelnuts come in a close second in mono, but have about 11% poly and only 9% sat. Almonds next with 70% mono and 22% poly. Peanuts are about equal, but with slightly more poly than mono and the highest sat fat content of the bunch at 15.5%. The one with the least mono and most poly is the walnut, with 69% poly and only 21% mono. The higher the mono and sat content, the less inflammatory one would suppose the nut to be. Nuts also contain a fair amount of antioxidant power, too, that’s needed to keep the fats from going rancid. The antioxidants (squalene and Vitamine E) also help keep you from ‘going rancid’. As we used to say to our patients in the clinic…enjoy all the macadamia nuts you can afford. They’re pricey, but they’ve got a great fat profile.

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